Guest Post: Derry’s Red Partisans

Supporters of Derry City have recently started a new fans group going under the name ‘Red Partisans’. With links to Derry Anti-Fascist-Action, the group seeks to improve the atmosphere at matches whilst injecting a strong rejection of racism and the far right into the terraces. James Wright from football is radical caught up with one of their members, doherty-c, to discuss the formation of the group.

How did the idea for creating the Red Partisans come about? Why did you pick the name and how did you get from the idea stage to organising for matches?

The idea has been there now for about eight months. The atmosphere that Derry was once famous for throughout Ireland has not been there for a few years and there has been talk of a new group for sometime but nothing ever materialised. However, it was during an anti-fascist Derry meeting when it was discussed how people in that group could stay in contact as much as possible and it was agreed that Derry games would be perfect as a lot attended the games anyway – from there the group was born. We invited other Derry fans who weren’t involved with AFA Derry to a meeting to discuss forming a group, what our aims for the season would be and the political stance we would have. The meeting was a success and all we had to do then was give ourselves a name! How we did that turned out really simple – the ‘red’ part was always there as it’s the colour Derry wear along with white and it was quickly joined with ‘Partisan’ which we got from the Italian folk song ‘Bella Ciao’. It suited us perfectly

The new group has got explicit links to Derry Anti-Fascist Action (AFA). Is this a case of people involved in AFA using football as a platform or Derry City fans being more open about their politics? Or indeed, both?

I would say that largely, Derry City fans are afraid of associating themselves with any explicit political references. Personally speaking, over the years of going to the matches at the Brandywell, I’ve encountered several instances of arguments breaking out over the displaying of the Irish tricolour in the stadium, or the singing of Irish rebel songs. But for us as a group it is very important to remember the struggle here – we take pride in our city’s history of resistance to oppression. This is the city where the Civil Rights campaign started aswell, with one simple message – ‘Equality’. Our section is open to every walk of life, everyone is equal who backs the team. I think the group is just like minded people interested and involved in similar things. We have close links with AFA but it is two separate bodies with a similar message

As you’ve implied, Derry has a rich tradition of resistance in the popular imagination, such as the Free Derry movement. Do you feel that setting up this group is continuation of that heritage in some way?

Absolutely, it is something we are all extremely proud of, we pride ourselves in being from a place where working class people rose up and helped change the political landscape for the better here in the North of Ireland. The simple message the movement had here was that people didn’t want to be better off than those who are perceived as different, they just wanted to be seen as equals. That gives us pride and we will flaunt that history we have to the world.

Do you think that setting up an Ultras group with explicitly anti-fascist politics is in some way a response to the limitations of more ‘liberal’ campaigns like “Kick it Out”? That challenging racism and the far right in a successful way has to come from the fans themselves?

I agree yes, campaigns like Kick It Out, while their aims are good, are limited in what they can do. The only way to stamp out racism and fascism is from within. Once the fans make a stand against it, whenever it arises, it will never be allowed to settle. Our group, we hope, will offer a better alternative. We have no limitations to what we can do to eradicate it from the support if ever it raises its ugly head

Are there any particular Ultras groups that have inspired the way you’ve set yourselves up? Are you hoping to make friendship links in the future? I’ve heard of some decent anti-racist activity from Shamrock Rovers fans, for example, in terms of the League of Ireland.

Groups such as Celtic’s ‘Green Brigade’, Marseille’s ‘CU84’, AEK Athens’ ‘Originals 21’ and Livorno’s ‘Brigate Autonome Livornesi’ have obviously been massive sources of inspiration and great examples for ourselves to follow. However, smaller, lesser known groups such as Virtus Verona’s ‘Ciodo Bhoys’ or the fans of FC United have provided us with a slightly more realistic reference point in terms of organisation and displays. We have regular contact with fans from FCUM and plan to build on that in the near future. Shamrock Rovers ‘Boardwalk Block’ have done great things recently, with displays and even just promoting anti racism from within their support and it has to be applauded. They as a support in the past have been criticized for not doing enough, but they have answered them brilliantly

You’ve got some impressive banners set up already – are you hoping to diversify into other types of displays in the future?

Up until this point, our banner and sticker designs have been inspired by a wide range of interests held by members of the group, be it Leninist propaganda art or 2-tone ska. We plan on keeping it similarly diverse in the future and we are currently finishing up designs inspired by the Paris Commune, The Smiths, the women of the Zapatistas, The Stone Roses and the “fussballfans gegen homophobie” campaign.

As someone not familiar with stewarding and policing in the League of Ireland, do you anticipate repression?

Our ground is unique in that the politics of the city means we have never had a police presence inside the stadium. This situation seems to suit both the club and the police. Unfortunately, the FAI are insistent on fining clubs for the use of pyro. The club is run by volunteers whose fundraising efforts keep us afloat so it’s understandable that the wider support don’t like to see money wasted on fines. We’re lucky in that the authoritarian and disgraceful legislation recently introduced in Scotland is not replicated in Ireland. This isn’t to say that we haven’t previously been subject to typically overzealous policing at bigger games like the FAI Cup Final last year. Six Arrests for the use of pyro and some roughing up from the Garda. It’s to be expected from p*gs though, I’m sure yous are well aware of how the saying goes by now… 1312.

Republished with kind permission from football is radical
Snippets, quotes, pictures and articles documenting when football/’soccer’ collides with radical politics.

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